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Two years ago, in September of 2011, the first protest of what soon become known as the Occupy Wall Street Movement took place in a plaza in New York City’s lower Manhattan district. The peaceful protest was originally intended to draw attention to corruption on Wall Street; the expanding wealth gap that’s causing the middle class to thin out, while the number of people in poverty grows, and the richest demographics sprout billionaires. Those who supported the movement coined the phrase “the 99 percent,” which refers to the concept that 99% of the population is being taken advantage of by the economically elite 1% (the ultra-wealthy).
Okay, chances are you already knew all of that. In today’s universe of 24-hour news cycles the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon may sound like ancient history. Don’t count it out yet, though, because about a month ago the Occupy Money Cooperative – which sprang up in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street protests – made headlines. What seems rather odd, though, is that the big news had nothing to do with sit-ins in the park or shout-outs during marches on big banks.
The ruckus this time around is about the fact that the Occupy Money Cooperative told ABC news “We debated buying a bank, which we came close to doing.” Carne Ross, a board member of the Occupy Money Cooperative, confirmed that’s still an option the group is considering. Meanwhile, he explained, they are making plans to issue their own plastic. That’s right, if the launch reaches fruition you may be able to soon carry your own Occupy Card that will be accepted wherever VISA cards are honored.
The Occupy Money Cooperative
The Occupy Money Cooperative is a non-profit organization that aims to provide consumers with access to low-cost financial services. The cooperative is currently staffed by unpaid volunteers. Eventually the group wants to compensate its employees with competitive wages and health benefits. If you’d like to join the organization you can become a member free of charge. All you have to do to gain membership status is to become a card-carrying member, which in this particular case means that you apply for and use an Occupy Card – the prepaid plastic that will hit the streets before too long. Financial proceeds from the card will go back into the Occupy Money Cooperative for the benefit of its members, so it works on the same principle as a low-cost community food co-op.
A Prepaid Card for the 99%
Although it is easy to chuckle at the paradox Occupy plastic evokes, the cooperative is serious about its intent and mission. Carne Ross, the board member who came up with the idea, is a former British diplomat and commentator on banking and international affairs. Ross resigned from the British foreign service in 2004 to protest the Iraq war, and he later became an active member of the alternative bank working group established by the Occupy movement’s General Assembly. Occupy Money told ABC that it seeks to raise seed money to the tune of $1 million to produce the card, which will have no application fee and will be available to everyone. In order to issue a prepaid card, though, the group will have to work with a bank, so deposits to your Occupy Card will be FDIC insured.
Additional Card Details
The organization does plan to charge $1.95 per ATM withdrawal and 99 cents for balance inquiries, and it has partnered with VISA to ensure that it’s accepted worldwide. The idea behind the plastic is that the group wants to eliminate the inequities that are present in current financial service systems and it also wants to extend services to people who don’t have a bank account. The goal, they say, is to make a prepaid card that is considerably more affordable, but also offers more services to consumers. In an article published in the New York Times, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research confirmed that the proposed card appears to be a legitimate attempt to deliberately avoid the kinds of high fees that are typically charged by other issuers.
Some Protest the Card
The news story in the Times also highlighted, that plenty of Occupy Wall Street supporters are now energetically protesting against the roll-out of the Occupy Card. Many consider it a travesty, and one member pointed out that Occupy Wall Street has always conducted itself as a consensus-based movement, but that there is currently no consensus when it comes to the controversial idea of issuing a VISA card or buying a bank.
What do you think about the occupy Wall Street prepaid card? Are you going to be one of the first to get one?
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